The capital has seen a record 117 closures – the highest since the guide was published in 1991- with 2003 having the previous highest number with 113 closures. There were 167 restaurant openings during the year; the fourth-highest year on record beating the 200 openings in 2016.
There were 50 net openings (openings minus closures) and this was down 50% on the previous year’s figure of 109. A further sign of pressure in the independent market comes from the ratio of openings to closings which dropped to 1.4:1. Only one previous year has exceeded this rate: 2003 when, at 1.2:1, it was a time when for nearly every restaurant that opened another one closed.
The guide’s statistics include independent restaurants and chains with more than three branches are excluded. The authors suggested that if the well-publicised closures in large chains were included, the statistics would be “even more dramatic”.
The guide’s co-founder, Peter Harden, said: “It used to be the case that good restaurants as a rule did not close. But the last year has seen losses at the top end such as Marianne, landmarks such as The Gay Hussar, and highly-rated start-ups like Killer Tomato, which should have been a success story, but which came and went almost as quickly as it began.
“The level of competition within the London restaurant market is unprecedented and is creating business conditions even more challenging that elsewhere in the UK. This time, the problem is purely and simply a case of over-supply: too many restaurants chasing a level of demand that although it continues to rise is doing so only slowly.”